Tangled Dreams: Jim Cherewick exhibition at Ferndale Library


Jim Cherewick, two paintings

Some art exhibitions are carefully curated to represent a theme or mark a period of time in an artist's working life. Other exhibitions are based on practicalities, such as Ypsilanti artist Jim Cherewick's show at the Ferndale Area District Library.

The paintings there are "whatever I haven’t sold yet or to show before the owner buys it," he said via email. "Mostly watercolor and ink drawings I’ve been painting lately."

Crayons are another medium in the exhibition, with neither an oil or acrylic painting in sight.

"I really enjoy the pack-up-and-go mentality of watercolors and crayons," Cherewick said. "Acrylic and oils you kind of need a workstation with rags and paint pallets, etc. I just throw a watercolor case and brushes in my backpack and off I go."

The immediacy with which Cherewick likes to work comes through in his paintings, which are filled with nervous energy, dream-state forms, and alternately scary and humorous portraiture. There's a cartoonist's vibe to his paintings -- think Maira Kalman (The New Yorker) and Ben Katchor (Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer) -- mixed with the disquieting energy of Francis Bacon.

"I really enjoy disturbing old cartoon remixes [such as] Bootleg Bart, Instagram stuff, as well as whatever explores contrasting medium choices [and] blazing color patterns," Cherewick said of his influences. "Lately, I've finally jumped on the gouache wagon," he said, referencing a style of painting that uses opaque watercolors. "Less control than watercolor and kinda scary. I now see the wonders of it."

Cherewick's Ferndale Library exhibit runs through Feb. 2, and on the closing night he'll get to feature his other artistic pursuit: music.

In addition to his solo work, which is how he'll perform in Ferndale, he's a guitarist and vocalist in the indie-rock band Best Exes. The quartet's 2017 album, Cactus, features Cherewick's painting on the cover, which is fitting: music and art aren't mutually exclusive to him.

"It’s always in the background when I'm painting," Cherewick said in response to how music influences his art. "I'm sure it works the other way as well. Just sucking up what's around us." (Some of his favorite recent albums for painting include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Push the Sky Away, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile's Lotta Sea Lice, and "anything by Jason Molina.")

Cherewick said Best Exes is working on new songs, but that his "solo stuff has been collecting up like a wad of X-mas lights: some broken, some not. Just trying to find some extra hands to hang up this tangled dream."

"Tangled dreams" is a fine description of Cherewick's paintings, too.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

"Work by Jim Cherewick" is on display through Feb. 2 at the Ferndale District Library, 222 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale. Cherewick, Anthony Retka, and Emily Rose will perform at the free closing reception, Feb. 2, 8-9:30 pm. He'll also perform at Ziggy's, 206 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti, on Feb. 23 with Hydropark and Saajtak. You can more of Cherewick's paintings on his website and Instagram page; hear his solo songs at Bandcamp or Soundcloud.